Victorian Curriculum: Will we just floodfill a 6.5?

Another missed opportunity.

Frameworks, CSF, CSF2, VELS, National Curriculum, AusVels, Victorian Curriculum.

My teaching career now enters its 28th year.

I have lived through 7 incarnations of a 7 to 10 Curriculum in Victoria.

One every 4 years is not bad I suppose.

I have little experience of other countries to compare that too. Do we change our Curriculum more often?

The problem is not the frequency of change. It is the lack of support for teachers that comes with the change.

What I do know from my 28 years experience is that if you want teachers to assess accurately to the curriculum it needs two essential elements.

  1. The curriculum has to be clear and specific, not vague and wishy-washy. As close as we got to clear and specific curriculum was the National Curriculum. At least it was structured in one-year bands. The Victorian Curriculum has amorphous content standards that cover two years of the curriculum. Teachers are expected to assign a number to it for system level reporting. Jimmy is a 8.5. Freddie is a 9.0.
  2. The curriculum needs to be supported with many and specific examples of student work.

Content standards are not enough. They are easily misinterpreted. Daisy Christodoulou does a concise job of exposing the flaws in curriculum standards in her book Making Good Progress?: The Future of Assessment for Learning.


She, quite rightly, points out the only way to clarify what the standards actually mean is give teachers examples of real student work that is “at that standard”. This could be in the form of sample assignments, essays, prac reports or models.

The National Curriculum actually provided such examples. They were helpful.

For subjects likes Maths and Science the most useful way to assist teachers to assess to the standards is to give them access to large banks of test questions that are calibrated to the curriculum framework.

This is part of the Year 7 and 8 Geography Standard in the Victorian Curriculum.

Students select and represent data and information in a range of appropriate forms including maps at different scales that conform to cartographic conventions. They analyse maps and other geographical data and information, and use geographical terminology, to develop identifications, descriptions, explanations and conclusions. They use digital and spatial technologies to represent and analyse data and information.”

I defy anyone to assess accurately to that standard without more information and examples of what it actually means.

We should teach our students so they are able to demonstrate that Geography standard. We should then be able to give students a test using questions we are certain actually assess that Geography standard or we can see an assignment that covers the Geography standard.

At the moment we are working blind.

In the ongoing “reinventing the wheel” game we love to play in education, teachers invariably have to do this work themselves. We use our professional judgement. Repeatedly in faculty meetings and now Professional Learning Teams we travel the cycle.

What do we want the children to learn?

How will we know if they have learnt it? Let’s interpret what we think the wishy-washy curriculum document means and come up with a pretest and a post test.

What will we do if they don’t learn it?

What do we do if they already know it?

I’m pretty sure in all the curriculums I have lived through, Frameworks, CSF, CSF11, VELS, National Curriculum, AusVels, Vic Curric, had these topics in them:

  1. Persuasive writing English
  2. Index laws in maths
  3. Seasons and Day and Night in science
  4. Tudor England in Historyarea.jpg

The student exemplars and test item banks for these topics should already exist. While we have a “new curriculum” every 4 years, most of it does not change. 90% of the Aus Vels Maths curriculum is identical to the Victorian Curriculum so the exemplars and item banks should just be remapped to the new curriculum framework.

The insight assessment package sounds like it goes some way to making this happen. That is helpful for Maths and English teachers. In secondary schools, English and Maths teachers are the teachers who need more standardised assessment the least.

English and Maths already have NAPLAN and most schools would use some form of norm-referenced English or  Maths assessment like OnDemand Tests or PATR and PATM.

It is the other curriculum areas that most need the item banks and the assessment exemplars. Science, Humanities, The Arts, Health and PE and Technology need help to interpret what the fluffy two-year achievement bands in the Victorian Curriculum actually mean. Without this help, accuracy and consistency of teacher judgements will be impossible to obtain.

How will Sale Secondary College’s interpretation of an 8.5 in the technology standards compare to Wellington Secondary College’s interpretation or Swan Hills interpretation? Without exemplars and item banks, teacher judgements will continue to be a joke as they are currently.

Flood fill a C or a 6.5 and let’s move on.

Without the support of a large number of exemplars and assessment item banks, that is what we will do.



2 thoughts on “Victorian Curriculum: Will we just floodfill a 6.5?

  1. Absolutely, Rob – I taught for two years in Victoria at the beginning of my career before moving back to NSW where I’m about to start as a Head Teacher: English after six more years.

    I’ve learned that the syllabus is probably the least important administrative influence on our jobs; like Initial Teacher Training it’s an obstacle to effective teaching. Yet, every reporting season, or assessment, or when programming, I have to make something up to satisfy unquantifiable abstract statements that no one can prove and parents don’t understand. It’s almost like there’s profit to be made in recycling jargon every few years!

    I discovered the evidence for effective teaching and learning this year and have steadily been shaping my practice to include mostly explicit instruction, the cognitive advice from the Learning Scientists, and more impactful marking/feedback. It’s having the effect the science says it does.

    To fill the void of explicit English instruction I am working on a fully-explicit program for Go Back To Where You Came From and hope to deliver it by the end of the year (free). I feel the only way forward is for teachers to share explicit resources and evidence that justifies marking guidelines with annotations. Until then, more and more talented teachers will walk away from the profession and more and more students will meander through school with air blowing through their ears.


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